Washington – Sage Software’s channel chief Nina Smith has already gone on record saying its channel partners will be treated differently and at the company’s annual Insights conference, she held true to her word and revealed a new channel structure for business partners.
Gone are the more than 25 channel programs replaced with four channel categories.
“We had 27 channel programs and partners would have to think which one works for me. So we applied simplicity to this and streamlined the programs into four planks,” Smith said.
Those planks are called: Grow my business; Hire talent; Build knowledge and Earn rewards.Previous programs such as the Fast Track for Growth and the Marketing Alliance program will be under the Grow your business category.
In Hire Talent, programs such as 100/100 will be a part of this package along with other resources such as an $8,000 cash grant, personality profile services, and enrollment into the Sage Sales Academy.
Acquiring competencies is what the Build Knowledge category is all about. This will be the area where business partners gain certification and specialization training. Also Sage Software University will be a part of this channel program category.
Finally, the Earn Rewards segment will provide resellers with margins. Programs under this category are Sage Select, Sage Co-Op as well as the company’s Chairman’s Club, President’s Circle and Million Dollar Club recognition programs. The Sage Select program has been updated to offer co-op funds for development training along with free access to Sage’s 24/7 Anytime Learning subscriptions on Sage Software University for Gold, Platinum and Diamond level Sage Select partners.
Besides the new streamlined partner programs, Sage unveiled a channel partner portal site called www.sagepartnerportal.com where resellers can have a single sign on access to all programs, marketing collateral and other services.
Diamond partner Gail Wilson of Gail Wilson & Associates of Toronto, said that Sage is headed in the right direction with its channel strategy.
By streamlining the channel programs into four categories it has made it easier for her to find money adding programs she did not know about before, Wilson said.
“There were a few programs that I was not familiar with. I can now examine them under the new portal site and you can analyze if this program will work for your business,” she said.
Wilson, who is celebrating 25 years in business this year, added that the marketing program will enable her to earn a higher percentage of co-op dollars, for example.
Smith is also trying to change the culture of its channel business and community. In the past, Sage treated all of its partners the same, whether they brought in $10 million of business or $50,000 worth of business.
Along with the new director of sales Paul Johnson, Smith will start to segment the partners and create a partner advocate role for them inside the Sage business.
“They need a single point of contact within Sage and we will create these single points of contact for them to help them navigate through Sage and help them with their solutions and create a business plan for them,” Smith said.
Wilson, who also won a Sage President’s Circle award at the conference, said she wasn’t sure what (treating partners differently) means to her as a partner and will be looking to have more dialogue with Sage executives on this matter.
Smith is also trying to develop a more aggressive lead generation program by maximizing search engine marketing tactics.
Currently only four per cent of the leads provided by Sage are closed by its channel partners.
“If you look at it the other way, we passed on leads to partners that they would say have a 96 per cent failure rate,” Johnson said.
Johnson will be trying to re-engineer leads by qualifying them on the front end to turn them into a higher quality lead. So far the lead generation process has slowed, but the close rate has improved, he added.
Next on Johnson’s agenda will be to increase the volume of qualified leads.
With that Sage has developed a new marketing concept called Trains.
Marketing trains will run similar to an actual passenger train schedule. Sage will inform partners on new marketing campaigns and when they will be running either nationally or locally. If a partner wants to join they will be issued a ticket.
“The marketing train is a wonderful idea,” Wilson said. “We need to do joint marketing instead of doing marketing in the dark. Then it will be a shot in the dark and maybe we get something or not. But, a national campaign could hit my local market and help customers to find a local reseller such as myself and I think that is great.”
Sage also announced that its will expand its Independent Software Vendor program.
Smith also unveiled Sage’s product release time line which will see 14 new products being released by the end of this year. The first will be DacEasy by Sage Version 16 released this month. Other products such as Sage CRM, MAS 90, 200, and 500, PFW, BusinessWorks, Sage Accpac 5.5, Sage Pro, TimeSlips, and Active Planner will be release later on this fall.